After the inspired Word of Sacred Scripture and the doctrinal grace of the Catholic Catechism, I believe the third book that every Fatima devotee should have close at hand is the book of Sister Lucia, “Calls” From the Message of Fatima, which was released in English in 2002. A work truly directed by the Holy Spirit through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, “Calls” From the Message of Fatima constitutes a veritable Marian catechism of faith and life, written in a down to earth mode, which can be grasped by all members of the Faith and all people of good will. I have no personal doubt that Sister Lucia’s recent masterpiece will eventually become a spiritual classic, rightfully identified as the fruits of a mystic and of a saint.
This veritable Fatima catechism which includes inspired treatments on “In the Presence of God” (Chapter 1); “Calls From the Message of Fatima” (Chapter 2); “The Ten Commandments” (Part III) and “The Rosary” (Part IV), provides so many spiritual insights that the only true danger is that one might overlook some of the individual pearls amidst the overall treasure.
It is for this reason that I would like to isolate one of the foundational pearls of Sister Lucia’s great work for its deserved appreciation, namely her predominant mariological theme of Our Lady as the “Co-redemptrix of the human race.” Second only to the Marian title of “The Immaculate Heart of Mary,” Mary Co-redemptrix is the most often cited and principal Marian theme presented by Sister Lucia throughout the book. Our Lady’s coredemptive role with and under Jesus Christ in the accomplishment of Redemption is explained and expounded upon throughout the text, and always in ways which bring new appreciation to the unique role of the Mother of Jesus, as the New Eve with and under the New Adam, in the accomplishment of our Redemption.
Just as Pope John Paul II has used the title Co-redemptrix for Our Blessed Mother on six occasions during his pontificate, (1) so too Sister Lucia on six occasions refers to the doctrinal title of Our Blessed Mother as our Co-redemptrix with and under Jesus, both from the perspective of Our Lady’s unique participation in restoring supernatural life to souls and as the perfect exemplar for each of us in our call to offer our daily sacrifices.
Pope John Paul II has also, on three occasions, called all Christians to be “co-redeemers” (2) with Jesus Christ in distributing the graces of Redemption to today’s world, and Sister Lucia likewise accentuates Our Mother’s Fatima call for redemptive sacrifice as a foundational principal for living the message of Fatima.
In deference to the poetic beauty and the theological profundity of Sister Lucia’s formulation, I would like to present her own inspired teachings on the Co-redemptrix, rather than any theological summation of it, as beautifully articulated in “Calls” From the Message of Fatima.
In her commentary on the “Call to Share in the Eucharist” (Chapter 10), Sister Lucia explains how each Christian is called to contribute to the work of salvation through our prayers and sacrifices with Mary Co-redemptrix as our perfect model:
And our own contribution? It is our humble prayer, our poor little acts of self-denial which we must unite with the prayer and sacrifice of Jesus Christ and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in reparation, and for the salvation of our poor brothers and sisters who have wandered away from the one true path that leads to Life.
At this point, I ask myself: Why is it that, since the merits and prayer of Jesus Christ are sufficient to make reparation for and to save the world, the Message invokes the merits of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and calls on us, too, to pray, to make sacrifices, to offer reparation?
I have to say that I do not know! Nor do I know what explanation the theologians of the Church would give me if I were to ask them. But I have meditated on, and thought about this question. I open the Gospel and I see that from the very beginning Jesus Christ united to his redemptive work the Immaculate Heart of Her whom He chose to be his Mother.
The work of our redemption began at the moment when the Word descended from Heaven in order to assume a human body in the womb of Mary. From that moment, and for the next nine months, the blood of Christ was the blood of Mary, taken from her Immaculate Heart; the Heart of Christ was beating in unison with the Heart of Mary.
And we can think that the aspirations of the Heart of Mary were completely identified with the aspirations of the Heart of Christ. Mary’s ideal had become the same as that of Christ Himself, and the love in the Heart of Mary was the love in the Heart of Christ for the Father and for all human beings; to begin with, the entire work of redemption passed through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, through the bond of her close intimate union with the divine Word.
Since the Father entrusted his Son to Mary, enclosing Him for nine months within her chaste virginal womb—and “All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Mt 1, 22-23; Is 7:14)—and since Mary of her own free will opened herself entirely to whatever God willed to accomplish in her—”Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38) is what she said to the angel—in view of all this and by God’s disposition, Mary became, with Christ, the Co-redemptrix of the human race. (3)
The Fatima visionary further explains in her treatment of “The Call to Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary” (Chapter 13), how the entire work of our Redemption began in the Heart of Mary, the inseparable union of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and why her role as Co-redemptrix manifests the union of their Two Hearts:
God began the work of our redemption in the Heart of Mary, given that it was through her “fiat” that the redemption began to come about: “And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word‘” (Lk 1:38). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). Thus, in the closest union possible between two human beings, Christ began, with Mary, the work of our salvation. The Christ’s heartbeats are those of the heart of Mary, the prayer of Christ is the prayer of Mary, the joys of Christ are the joys of Mary; it was from Mary that Christ received the Body and Blood that are to be poured out and offered for the salvation of the world. Hence, Mary, made one with Christ, is the Co-redemptrix of the human race. With Christ in her womb, with Jesus Christ in her arms, with Christ at Nazareth and in his public life; with Christ she climbed the hill of Calvary, she suffered and agonized with Him, receiving into her Immaculate Heart the last sufferings of Christ, his last words, his last agony and the last drops of his Blood, in order to offer them to the Father. (4)
Part of the genius of Sister Lucia’s treatment of Our Lady’s role as Co-redemptrix is its concrete application to the Christian call to holiness which should convict the heart of every Christian and, especially, every son and daughter of the Fatima message. In her section on “The Call to Holiness” (Chapter 21), the author offers the example of Our Lady in her model of holiness as a devoted wife in the fulfillment of all the duties of her state in life:
Our Lady sanctified herself as a pure and immaculate virgin by corresponding to the graces which God granted to her in that state. She sanctified herself as a faithful and devoted wife by fulfilling all the duties of her state in life. She sanctified herself as a loving mother who dedicated herself to the Son whom God entrusted to her, fondling Him in her arms, bringing Him up and educating Him, and also helping Him and following Him in the performance of his mission. With Him she traveled the narrow way of life, the rugged road to Calvary; with Him she agonized, receiving in her heart the wounds of the nails, the piercing of the lance and the insults of the hostile crowd; finally, she sanctified herself as mother, mistress and guide of the Apostles, agreeing to remain on earth for as long as God wished, in order to accomplish the mission which He had entrusted to her as Co-redemptrix with Christ of all human beings. (5)
Many non-Catholic Christians today have difficulty with the Church’s teaching of Our Lady as “Mediatrix of All Graces,” (6) in their perceiving any mediation other than that of Jesus to be “competitive,” or on a level of equality with the one Mediator (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). But the Catholic Church also rejects all forms of parallel mediation that would seek to place any creature on the level of equality with Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and man. At the same time, the Church clearly teaches Mary’s unique and subordinate participation in the one mediation of Jesus Christ in the role of salvation.
As the Second Vatican Council teaches, (7) the unique participation of Mary in the one mediation of Jesus Christ only adds to the glory of Christ the one Mediator in bringing to all humanity the “gifts if eternal salvation,” (8) a distribution of grace from the Immaculate Heart of Mary that seeks to unite every human heart with the Heart of Jesus. As popes teach, and people believe, every grace of Redemption merited by Jesus our Redeemer at Calvary comes to us through the intercession of Our Mother Mary (cf. Jn. 19:26-27).
In her commentary on “A Remarkable and Powerful Prayer” (Chapter 34), Sister Lucia beautifully explains this powerful intercessory role of Our Lady, which takes place by reason of her prior participation in the mission of Jesus as the Co-redemptrix:
There is, thus, only one divine Mediator: Jesus Christ; but as supplicant intercessors we have Mary, the Saints, and each one of us, if we so wish. St. Paul himself, in various passages in his letters, asks people to pray both for him and for one another: “To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that utterance may be given in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph 6:18-20).
So if the Apostle tells us to pray for one another, we have much more reason to ask Mary to pray for us, because her prayer will be much more pleasing to the Lord in view of her dignity as Mother of God and her closer union with Christ, true God and true Man, by reason of her mission of Co-redemptrix with Christ as well as of her great sanctity. (9)
In seeking to assist us in a deeper penetration into the bottomless mysteries of the Rosary, our Fatima visionary guides the soul through a meditation on the Fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, in Chapter 35, “Contemplation of the Joyful Mysteries.” Here she explains that the Mother of Jesus does not simply offer her Son to the perfect will of the Father, but she offers herself with Christ to God, and specifically as the Co-redemptrix with Christ for the salvation of all humanity:
Mary knows that this prophecy is to be fulfilled in the person of her Son; she knows that He has been sent by God to carry out the work of our redemption. And far from wanting to save Him from such pain and suffering, she takes Him in her pure arms, brings Him to the temple with her virginal hands and places Him on the altar so that the priest may offer Him to the eternal Father as an expiatory victim and a sacrifice of praise.
Here, Mary does not simply offer her Son, she offers herself with Christ, because Jesus had received his body and blood from her; thus she offers herself in and with Christ to God, Co-redemptrix, with Christ, of humanity. (10)
In her later meditation on Our Lady’s Assumption into Heaven, in Chapter 37, “Contemplation of the Glorious Mysteries,” the Fatima author connects the victory of Mary’s glorious Assumption with the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 where, from the beginning, this Woman was predestined by God to share in the battle against satan and to give Christ the human nature that would ultimately defeat the serpent on Calvary, thereby meriting for her the title “Co-redemptrix of the human race:”
As soon as the first sin which brought condemnation on human beings had been committed, God, speaking to the Devil who had taken the form of a serpent and who had incited the first human beings to do evil, said to him: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gn 3:15).
This woman, predestined by God to give Christ a human nature and to be, with Him, Co-redemptrix of the human race—”I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers“—this woman, He said, could not remain in the shadow of death, because she did not incur the sentence of punishment. Hence Mary is the first fruit of the Redemption wrought by Christ; and, through his merits, she was carried up to Heaven in body and soul, where she lives and reigns, in God, with her Son and His. (11)
The sublimity of Sister Lucia’s treatment of Our Lady’s role of Co-redemptrix reminds us once again that saints, far more than theologians, are able to articulate the deepest mysteries of our Holy Faith due to sanctity’s constant companions: simplicity and truth.
It is no accident that Sister Lucia repeatedly calls the reader to understand in mind and heart Our Lady’s role as Co-redemptrix of the human race. Every child of Fatima is called to recognize the glorious role of the Mother of All Peoples in the work of Redemption, as well as to imitate our coredemptive Mother by offering our daily sacrifices, and by understanding that every daily cross, great or small, is one designated by God for the redemption of souls and our own sanctification. Indeed we are all called to “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church” (Col. 1:24).
The recognition and acknowledgment of Mary Co-redemptrix is indeed a central part of the Fatima message, as testified by Sister Lucia in “Calls” From the Message of Fatima and constitutes in itself an essential component of the fulfillment of the Fatima messages in our own time.
Our beloved Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, is presently discerning the worldwide petition for the solemn definition of Our Lady as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate, as submitted by over 500 cardinals and bishops, nearly 7 million Catholic faithful spanning 145 countries, and including such contemporary lights as the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Angelica, the late John Cardinal O’Connor, and the late John Haffert, co-founder of the Blue Army. Let us join our prayers and sacrifices to this petition, that the entire Church and world will soon officially acknowledge that which Sister Lucia conveys to us in “Calls” From the Message of Fatima: that Mary is, with and under Jesus our Divine Redeemer, the Co-redemptrix of the human race. Let us daily pray that Our Lady can be “released” by the solemn proclamation so that she may be able to fully intercede for all the graces necessary for the Triumph of her Most Immaculate Heart, and hence to bring ultimate fulfillment to her quintessential Fatima promise, that “in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph…and a period of peace will be granted to the world” (July 13th, 1917).
(1) John Paul II, Greetings to the Sick Following General Audience (Sept. 8, 1982); Angelus Address (Nov. 4, 1984), L’Osservatore Romano, 860: 1; Palm Sunday Address at Alborada, Guayaquil, Ecuador (Jan. 31, 1985), L’Osservatore Romano, 876: 7; Palm Sunday and World Youth Day Address (March 31, 1985), L’Osservatore Romano, 880: 12; Address to Federated Alliance of Transportation of Sick to Lourdes (March 24, 1990); Address Commemorating Sixth Centenary of Canonization of St. Bridget of Sweden (Oct. 6, 1991), L’Osservatore Romano, 1211: 4.
(2) Insegnamenti IV/1 (1981), 896; V/1 (1982), 91; XI/2 (1988), 1216.
(3) “Calls” From the Message of Fatima, Chapter 13, p. 114.
(4) Ibid., Chapter 13, p. 137.
(5) Ibid., Chapter 21, p. 195.
(6) Cf. papal uses of that title by Bl. Pius IX, Encyclical Ubi Primum, (Feb. 2, 1849); Leo XIII, Octobri Mense (Sept. 22,1891), ASS 24, 1891; St. Pius X, Ad Diem Illum (Feb. 2, 1904), ASS 36, 1903-1904; Benedict XV, Apostolic Letter Inter Sodalicia (March 22, 1918), AAS 10, 1918, p. 182; Pius XI, Encyclical Ingravescentibus Malis, (September 29, 1937), AAS 29, 1937, p. 380; Pius XII, Mediator Dei, (Nov. 29, 1947), AAS 39, p. 541.
(7) LG 60, 61.
(8) LG 62.
(9) “Calls” From the Message of Fatima, Chapter 34, p. 266.
(10) Ibid., Chapter 35, p. 279.
(11) Ibid., Chapter 37, p. 295.